Fleas Begone!!
February 2, 2010 7:18 AM   Subscribe

How do we ensure that a flea-ridden carpet leaves no pestilence behind?

Our house was inhabited solely by a flea-ridden outdoor cat for two months before we bought it, and unbeknownst to us the carpet in the basement family room was completely infested with fleas. We moved in over the winter and had no idea until August, when an extended period of heat and humidity caused left-over flea eggs to "pop". This resulted in our unsuspecting indoor cat being afflicted with a monumental case of fleas. We treated her with Advantix and all was well, but we want to replace the carpet before spring and make sure that there are no lingering flea eggs.

The basement floor is plywood, and is located about four feet above a dirt crawl space. We plan on ripping out all traces of old carpet and underpadding, and replacing with new carpet and pad (sadly hardwood is not an option as it would be awfully cold on the feet).

What else should we do to ensure that all fleas are gone? Do we need to treat the wood floor with something before the new carpet goes on? We'd like to avoid mass quantities of noxious chemicals if possible to protect Go Banana Jr.
posted by Go Banana to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum until there is nothing left to vacuum. And be sure to throw the bag (or garbage that it gets dumped into) outside, so nothing crawls out and gets back into the house. Best thing to do, really.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2010

A thorough vacuuming, followed by another thorough vacuuming, and probably a few more thorough vacuumings should get rid of the eggs that are still there. I have successfully dealt with flea infestations in two different apartments(when I couldn't replace the carpet) with just a good vacuum cleaner and no chemicals.
posted by Dojie at 7:27 AM on February 2, 2010

Also - make sure you vacuum the old carpet very very well before it's removed so you're not spreading the fleas around the house during the removal.
posted by Dojie at 7:29 AM on February 2, 2010

I've heard that plain household borax, spread over possible flea-y areas and then vacuumed up (maybe after 24 hours or so) works well. I did not try it during our last flea infestation, because we went the noxious chemical route. (No crawlers here.)

But yeah, we vacuumed until the cows came home and left again.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2010

Mr. Go Banana is going to be thrilled by this, as he does all the vacuuming. Thanks for the advice so far!
posted by Go Banana at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2010

A relatively gentle alternative to noxious chemicals (though I guess it depends on your standards for noxious) is using borax or some sort of natural flea treatment made from boric acid. You sprinkle it on, let it sit a bit, then vacuum it up. It dries up any remaining flea eggs, and kills any that might be in the vacuum bag, too. Here is an article I found with pros and cons.
posted by dawnoftheread at 7:34 AM on February 2, 2010

Hardwood might be just as warm as carpet, and if your ceilings are high enough you could put down more subfloor under it. It's so much easier to clean and lasts longer.
posted by mareli at 8:08 AM on February 2, 2010

nth-ing Borax. Also, drop a garden-variety (yucky, evil) flea collar in your vacuum cleaner bag, to nuke any potential escapees before you have a chance to empty the bag, although if you're Borax-ing I suppose it's redundant.
posted by somanyamys at 8:33 AM on February 2, 2010

Hardwood might be just as warm as carpet, and if your ceilings are high enough you could put down more subfloor under it. It's so much easier to clean and lasts longer.

Note that hardwood is not a solution to flea problems - the nasty little creeps live and lay their eggs in the cracks between boards and they can be just as hard to get rid of there as in carpet.
posted by Dojie at 8:57 AM on February 2, 2010

Diatomaceous earth is another good, non-toxic solution. Dust everything with it, let sit, then vacuum up. It's safe for cats--we use it for ants around the food bowls. Get food grade, not the pool stuff.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2010

I will tell you that after bringing in a mangy Irish Settler my house got so flea ridden when you walked in a platoon of fleas jumped on your legs. It was freaky. We had to stay in our RV. After bomb after bomb the only way to get rid of those more robust last fleas was a lamp and a bowl of soapy water. A flea trap. Not toxic at all as an added bonus.
posted by beccaj at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2010

I know a lot of people who swear by Fleabusters, which is basically extremely finely-ground borax.

If the borax/diatomaceous earth/etc. doesn't work well for you: I get fleas in my house every year after coming home from Christmas, because the house I stay at over Christmas contains several flea-infested indoor/outdoor cats. I usually use a permethrin spray treatment myself, which obviously is a fairly nasty chemical, but I don't worry about it too much -- after all, if your kid gets scabies at daycare, the pediatrician is going to prescribe permethrin as a first-line treatment. If I have to spray a room/suitcase/mattress/etc. with permethrin, I usually just close off the area I've sprayed in for a day or two in order to make sure there isn't enough lingering around to hurt my cat. I've had much better luck with that than with borax-type treatments (although I haven't been willing to pony up $35 for the fleabusters stuff). I bathe all the animals in the house immediately before I spray and give all the animals a dose of Frontline Plus, in case some of the tenacious little buggers survive the permethrin holocaust. This treatment has always worked very well for me.
posted by kataclysm at 10:07 AM on February 2, 2010

Ugh, we went through this, too, and with a baby. In addition to all the above, I would add just one more suggestion.

Continue to treat your own indoor cat with meds - we use Frontline Plus because it both kills adult fleas and renders the escapees infertile. (Advantix might have a similar combo.) Then let your cat roam all over the place, attracting errant fleas and killing them with its treated coat.

The thing about fleas, as you've discovered, is that they can live off a host in their earlier life cycle stages, and it takes heat and vibration, and possibly CO2, to make them turn into adults. Cats and dogs provide those things really well.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2010

Took me ages to get rid of a flea infestation even though we had no carpets. We moved out and even months later (we were renovating the house) we would be besieged by them whenever we entered the house. Constant cleaning was the only answer. The only chemical which dented them was Raid, the stuff which (in my locale) comes in a red can, not the blue one (it specifically says it kills fleas).

Good luck. I have a grudging respect for the extraordinary ability of these *uckers to survive what we threw at them. It was like Alien in miniature, and I was John Hurt...
posted by BrokenEnglish at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2010

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